Professional Development

During March 2010...

ILLiad International Conference, 2010

Wednesday, March 31, 2010 9:35 am

ILL department upgraded to ILLiad 8, the revamped, re-designed ILL management software shortly before the Virginia Beach conference. The aftermath was clearly felt, as we had some tumultuous adventures with the upgrade. It was hoped that we would get familiar with the new interface before the conference, so we could bring questions, issues to the table and to learn how to take advantage of the new C# code base to help with ILL workflow. Many seemed to have the same idea; this conference is said to be the largest so far, with more than 300 participants.

With many excellent sessions, this conference has to be one of the best conferences I have ever attended, if not the best. One of the most exciting and valuable topics is how to streamline your ILLiad workflows with the IDS Workflow Toolkit in the preconference. According to the IDS Project website, “The IDS Project is a mutually supportive resource-sharing cooperative within New York State whose members include public and private academic libraries, the New York Public Library, and the New York State Library (view a list of current members). The Project is based on a strong sense of community among its members and a unified collection perspective. The major goal of the Project is to continually implement and objectively evaluate innovative resource-sharing strategies, policies and procedures that will optimize mutual access to the information resources of all IDS Project libraries.”

With the flexibility of the C# code base, IDS project programmer wrote several scripts using LUA for adding some often-used websites in the ILLiad staff client, like Amazon and Google Scholars, so we can access those website directly from the client. They even wrote a script for adding Princeton’s online catalog. Since we have not had much luck with using Z39.50 to search our catalog within ILLiad, this is very exciting news. I am looking forward to talking with our IT team members about adding our catalog button to the ILLiad client. Thanks ahead to the IT members.

Another very interesting topic is GIST – Getting It System Toolkit, which is “a system for merging Acquisitions and ILL request workflow using one interface, enabling user-initiated requests, coordinated collection development and acquisitions.” This is exactly what Lauren Corbett, Mary Beth Lock and I have been discussing. We are very excited about the possibility and are very much looking forward to the discussions with the Tech team and the Collection Development team.

Reporting – finding out what our user demographics are is another interesting session I went to. With the new more flexible interface, I can use the pivot table to really get to know who our users are and what they requested.

The OCLC updated us on several projects in development, including the Web-Scale Management Services and some commercial vendors’ policy changes.

Overall, this was a very informational conference. There are many small but useful tricks from the IDS Project that I am anxious to experiment soon, along with the tips l learned from talking with other participants. As Mary Beth mentioned in her round-up, collaboration, communication, promotion and evaluation are very important in today’s library work. We are looking forward to working together with various library users and staff members to implement some of the ideas we learned in the conference.

Leslie at MLA 2010

Sunday, March 28, 2010 8:08 pm

Music librarians are inured to battling winter weather to convene every year during February in some northern clime (during a Chicago snowstorm last year). So it was almost surreal to find ourselves, this year, at an island resort in San Diego in March (beautiful weather, if still a bit on the chilly side). Despite the temptations of the venue, I had a very productive meeting this year.


In the Southeast Chapter session, it was announced that East Carolina’s music library had scored top place among music libraries participating in a national assessment, sponsored by the Wisconsin-Ohio Reference Evaluation Program (WOREP), of effectiveness in answering reference queries. Initially, the East Carolina staff had misgivings about how onerous the process might be for users, who were asked to fill out a one-page questionnaire. As it turned out, students, when informed that it was part of a national project, typically responded “Cool!” and readily participated. The only refusals were from users who had to rush to their next class.


A panel presentation titled “Weaving the Web: Best Practices for Online Content” resulted in a case of what might be termed the Wake Forest Syndrome: walking into a conference session only to find that we’re already “doing that” at WFU. It was largely about music librarians implementing LibGuides. One item of interest was a usability study conducted by one school of their LibGuides. Its findings:

Users tend to miss the tabs at the top. One solution that was tried was to replicate the tabs as links in the homepage “welcome” box.

Users prefer concise bulleted lists of resources over lengthy descriptions.

Students tend to feel overwhelmed by long lists of resources; they want the top 3-4 resources to start with, then to see others as needed.

Users were confused by links that put them into other LibGuides without explanation.

Students had trouble identifying relevant subject-specific guides when these were offered in a comprehensive list display.

One attendee voiced concern over an apparent conflict of objectives between LibGuides that aim to transmit research skills (i.e., teaching students how to locate resources on their own) and course-specific LibGuides (listing specific resources). Is the latter spoon-feeding?


A panel presentation on scores approval plans gave me some useful tips, as I’m planning to set one up next fiscal year.

In another panel on collecting ethnic music, Liza Vick of Harvard supplied a gratifying number of acquisition sources that I didn’t know about (in case other liaisons are interested in these, Liza’s presentation, among others, will be posted on the MLA website: The session also produced an interesting discussion about the objectives of collecting ethnographic materials in the present era. Historically, libraries collected field notes and recordings done by (mostly European) ethnographers of (mostly non-Western) peoples, premised on producing the most “objective” or “authentic” documentation. The spread of technology in recent years has resulted in new situations: “sampler” recordings produced by the former “subjects” with the aim of representing their culture to a general public (once dismissed by academics, these now benefit from a new philosophy that views the ways people choose to represent themselves as worthy of serious attention); in the last twenty years or so, a new genre of “world” music has appeared, fusing elements of historical musical traditions with modern pop styles; and of course the former “subjects” are now documenting their own cultures in venues like YouTube. As a result, there is a movement on the part of ethnographers and librarians away from trying to define authenticity, and towards simply observing the ongoing discourse between traditional and modern communities.


Lynn has remarked on the need to reduce the percentage of our collections devoted to print bibliographic tools where the online environment now offers equivalent or superior discovery methods. In an MLA session that seemed to constitute a demonstration of this very principle, musicologist Hugh McDonald talked about his work in progress on a born-digital thematic catalog of the works of Bizet. Thematic catalogs have a long and venerable history in print, as definitive sources for the identification and primary source materials of a given composer’s works. They typically provide a numbering system for the works, with incipits (the musical notation for the principle themes) as an additional aid to identification, and cite manuscript materials and early editions. When freed of the space restrictions of print, McDonald envisions these catalogs as “theoretically” (i.e., when copyright issues have been ironed out) capable of documenting not just early editions but all editions ever published; not just the premiere performance, but all performances to date; not just incipits but full-text access to scores, recordings, reviews, and correspondence – compiled and updated collaboratively by many hands, in contrast to the famous catalogers of Mozart and Beethoven, who labored alone and whose catalogs are now “seriously out of date.” There are already many websites devoted to individual composers, but none, McDonald claims, presently approaches the kind of comprehensive compendium that might be realized based on the thematic catalog concept. One attendee, voicing a concern about the preservation of information in the online environment that is certainly not new and not unique to music, wanted to know if edits would be tracked and archived, noting that many librarians retain older print editions on their shelves for the light they cast on reception history and on the state of scholarship at a given time.


Arriving late for the “Hot Topics” session, I walked into the middle of a lively debate on the comparative benefits of having a separate music library in the music department vs. housing the music collection in the main library. Those who headed departmental music libraries argued passionately for the special needs of performing musicians, and a librarian onsite who speaks their language. Those who work as generalists in main libraries pointed to music’s role in the arts and humanities as a whole, and in the increasingly interdisciplinary milieu of today’s academe. In terms of administrative clout, a sense of isolation has always been endemic to departmental libraries: one attendee who “survived” a move of her music collection from the music department to the main library reported that she now enjoys unprecedented access to administration, more effective communication with circulation and technical services staff regarding music materials, and daily contact with colleagues in other disciplines that has opened opportunities she would not have had otherwise.

Another hot topic was “MLA 2.0″: in response to dwindling travel budgets, a proposal was made to ask conference speakers to replay their presentations in Second Life.


There were presentations on RDA and FRBR, two new cataloging standards, and I got to see some helpful examples for music materials, and well as a report on “deferred issues” that MLA continues to negotiate with the steering committee of RDA (these involve uniform titles and preferred access points; lack of alternative options for the principle source of information – problematic when you have a CD album without a collective title on the disc, but one on the container; definitions and treatment of arrangements and adaptations; and LC genre/form terms for music – which to use anglicized names for, and when to use the original language).

Indiana U, in their upcoming release of Variations, a program they’ve developed for digitizing scores and recordings collections, is “FRBRizing” their metadata. Unlike other early adopters of FRBR, they plan to make their metadata structure openly accessible, so that the rest of us can actually go in and see how they did it – this promises to be an invaluable aid to music catalogers as they transition to the new standard.

Another presenter observed that both traditional cataloging methods and the new RDA/FRBR schema are centered on the concept of “the work” – an entity with a distinct title and a known creator. Unfortunately, when faced with field recordings (and doubtless other ethnographic or other-than-traditionally-academic materials), a cataloger encounters difficulty proceeding on this premise. Does one take a collection-level approach (as archivists do with collections of papers) and treat the recording as “the work,” with the ethnographer as the creator? Or does one consider “the work” to be each of the often untitled or variously titled, often anonymously or collaboratively created performances captured on the recording? Music materials seem to span both sides of the paradigmatic divide, with Western classical repertoire that requires work-centered descriptors of a very precise and specialized nature (opus numbers, key, etc.) and multi-cultural research that challenges traditional modes of description and access.

Finally, I’ve got to share a witty comment made by Ed Jones of National University, who gave the introductory overview of FRBR. Describing how FRBR is designed to reflect the creative process – the multiple versions of a work from first draft through its publication history, to adaptations by others – he noted how the cataloger’s art, working from the other end, is more analogous to forensics: “We get the body, and have to figure out what happened.”

ILLiad Conference Round up

Sunday, March 28, 2010 2:47 pm

The ILLiad International conference, held Thursday-Friday, March 25-26, 2010 in Virginia Beach, VA had many sessions whose common content all boiled down to this: collaboration is key; communication is critical; promotion is needed; and evaluation is necessary. There were a few other things that I learned, but those are the highest level takeaways from the day and a half. These are, I would guess, the same takeaways from previous ILLiad conferences, but the differences this year highlighted HOW we collaborate, communicate, promote and evaluate.

Chip Nilges of OCLC was the keynoter for the conference. His address was very interesting and among the most salient points he made were:

* Before cloud computing, institutions spent 70% of their time on infrastructure, allowing only 30% for innovation and creation. Cloud computing allows for that ratio to reverse.

* Collaboration is key to working at web scale. Aggregated data supports multiple users.

* When taken together, circulations and ILL requests in libraries nation-wide average 5,200 requests fulfilled every second. (That’s bigger than Amazon.)

* Patron expectations are changing, and OCLC’s mission is to meet user needs in the way they’ve become accustomed.

To identify areas for future development OCLC surveyed users asking “If libraries could mail you this book, providing a return address envelop for a small fee that covered shipping would you find this valuable?” 34% of respondents said it would be “valuable” or “extremely valuable”. And 65% of users said a “global library card” that would be valid everywhere is “valuable” or “extremely valuable.” Not surprisingly, the greatest percentage of users who rated the universal library card “extremely valuable” were University students.

The first session of the day I attended was “Text Messaging (BAM!) – A quick, low cost way to pump your customer service up a notch.” Presenters Dave Williams and Ken Kinslow from Notre Dame and Barbara Coopey, Joyce Harwell and Shane Burris from Penn State discussed how you can push notifications to users when materials arrive by adding, (or having them add) their cell phone number with the extension that corresponds to their provider into their ILLiad account field that contains their email address. The presenters discussed the value to the users, (who as we know prefer texting to email) because of the immediacy of the notification. They suggested shortening the notification message that is sent so that it is text friendly. Eliminating the title and the users’ name for instance, and shortening the contact information, the message can be whittled down to less than the goal of 150 characters. They discussed ways to promote the service, (I think it would require little promotion, just notification.) And they also showed some statistics that the length of time between notification and book pickup for users who had implemented the text messaging service dropped from just under 48 hours to about 6 hours! (Though the presenter did caution that they’d only started the service in January, and their participation rate is still very small.) Setting up this is a no-brainer, and we will begin to do this soon.

The next session I attended was a “Copyright Roundtable” where there were as many interpretations of copyright law and what was allowable under licensing agreements as there were attendees in the room. Not much new content to report but I am extremely glad that we have such a strong commitment to doing copyright right. It is an exceedingly frustrating law, but, especially after hearing the stories related here, I’m confident that we have adopted the best practices for ILL.

My first session of the afternoon was canceled because the presenter was ill. I ended up in a session called “Free for All: ILLiad and Open Access” given by Tina Baich of IUPUI. She gave a very good presentation unearthing sites she’d found that provide free OA content. This is important because, finding freely available information on the web cuts down on customer wait, and eliminates cost to the seeking library. She discussed the difficulty of getting, for instance, electronic theses and dissertations. All of her finding aids she conveniently put together in a delicious list tagged ILLiad10 .

The last session that I attended that day was a session led by Christian DuPont, of Atlas Systems. While I was a little fearful that it might turn out to be nothing more than a promotion for AEON, Atlas’ Special Collections Management software, other than a passing reference, Christian managed to do a good job of describing the tension that increases as libraries promote their unique and special collections on one hand, but are frequently reluctant to share them on the other hand. During the first half of his presentation he shared the experience of one library and what they did to try to create useful workflows between ILL and Special Collections staff. Then he opened the conversation up to those in the audience to share their experiences. Respondents discussed frustrations on both the lending and the borrowing of materials from Special Collections. Frustrations on lending: once an item in special collections is requested, ILL staff basically lose control of the request. They “cancel” or “conditionalize” it and have to pass it off to others who may not have the same desire to fill requests quickly. (ILL staff are all about filling requests quickly.) Frustrations on borrowing: One library experienced a long delay with a special collections office that needed to have a $7 pre-payment before they processed a request. But the borrowing library didn’t have a credit card, and the lending library didn’t utilize IFM (the Fee Management system that OCLC libraries utilize for easy payment.) The ILL and the Special Collections people had to try many avenues to arrange payment, while administrative costs mounted, just to fulfill this request. Christian Dupont and the rest of the participants came away with many ideas on how creating management workflows might ease the requests of items from Special Collections. It was a very enlightening session.

The Friday session was perhaps the most interesting of the sessions I attended. (And in this conference, that says a lot!) The session was called “GIST, The Getting It System Toolkit.” The development of the toolkit came out of the IDS Project.

The toolkit allows for ILL staff to, in a single view, determine for items requested by our borrowers whether it might make more sense to purchase the item than borrow it. From their website: “The Getting It System Toolkit (GIST) is a customizable set of ILLiad tools and workflows that will enhance interlibrary loan and just-in-time acquisitions services; purchase request processing; and cooperative collection development efforts… GIST provides users and the library practical and thoughtful resolution of disparate information sources with key data, such as: uniqueness (for cooperative collection development strategies); free online sources (to reduce cost and/or catalog eBooks just-in-time); reviews and rankings (to add value to the request process); and purchasing options and prices (to give users and libraries options and streamline library work). GIST is flexible, so you can pick or choose which features to use or adapt. ” The documentation on the project is available at The toolkit provides, in a single interface, information on the cost to purchase the item, how many others in your usual borrowing sites own it to lend, whether it is available full text in GoogleBooks or elsewhere. AND IT’S FREE! Cristina and I were both so interested in this tool. We talked about implementing it for much of our trip back to Winston Salem. We can’t wait to begin conversations with others in the library to put this, and many of the other ideas we learned over the 2.5 days, in place soon.

Birds, Seals and ILLiad reports

Wednesday, March 24, 2010 5:00 pm

Cristina and I have had a taste of the wild life in Virginia Beach in our first 24 hours at the ILLiad International Conference. When we arrived at our hotel on Tuesday, we were greeted by a bird that was camped right outside our door. While surprised, we managed to scare it away so we could get into the room. After we unpacked, then tried a few strategies to rescue the poor frightened bird. Throwing a towel over a skittish bird, while seemingly an easy thing, didn’t work very well. After we gave up, the housekeeping staff jumped into action and must have eventually saved it since it wasn’t in the hall when we went down to dinner. We had a lovely dinner of seafood and pasta at the recommended restaurant, then went for a walk on the boardwalk right outside the hotel. It was a lovely evening, though a little chilly.

This morning dawned bright and beautiful. This is the view from our balcony. We noticed a commotion on the beach and discovered that a seal had come up on the beach in the night and was enjoying some sun himself. After breakfast, (during which we met up with colleagues from Davidson and UNC-Charlotte), on our way to the conference hotel, we stopped over to say hello to the seal. (The picture might not be too clear, but it really is a seal!) Some staff from the aquarium up the street had come over to caution tape off the area so this is as close as we could get. The woman we talked with said that it’s unusual, but not rare for seals to come up onto Virginia Beach.

After that morning’s excitement, we had a four block walk over to the conference hotel.

My morning’s sessions were all about ILLiad reporting and how to get relevant data out. Stephanie Spires of Atlas gave a report on Basic ILLiad database tables and relationships. Then she discussed ILLiad webreports and how they are similar and different from the Resource Sharing reports from OCLC. We also learned how to export data from OCLC into Excel for data manipulation and finally, now to export from the ILLiad client into Excel.

Second presenter of the day was John Penn who shared info on OCLC Resource Sharing stats and gave tips on how to make them work better and easier for you. He also showed a really cool tool he used called Geocoding to pull data from ILLiad transactions into a map to visually show where your ILLiad Resource Sharing customers are. Very interesting stuff!

After lunch, Collette Mak gave a real hands on tutorial with how to use data pulled from real ILLiad transactions into Excel and discovered many tips and tricks onto how we can use all kinds of things about the data. Her tutorial allowed us to go beyond what is being requested, to who is requesting what (and when!). She showed us how we might pull transactions reports that target new faculty to see specifically what they are requesting. Her reports can have far reaching implications beyond collection development to discovering different staffing models that will help meet user needs faster, and identify more about those “what the heck is going on?” outliers that skew data.

The pre-conference sessions were so valuable. I can’t wait to try some of the tips I learned on our ILLiad and OCLC data at ZSR! Tonight we are having a reception at the Virginia Aquarium and I fully expect that our wild times, both inside and outside of the conference, will continue.

What the Best College Teachers Do

Monday, March 22, 2010 8:37 am

On March 19, I attended an inspirational presentation by Ken Bain who is the author of What the Best College Teachers Do. The program was co-sponsored by the Wake Forest University Schools of Business and the Teaching and Learning Center. Bain observed that students take three approaches to their learning: surface (trying to remember stuff); strategic (trying to make good grades) or a deep approach (trying to make meaning). It is the last approach where instructors can work to create an environment where deep learning can occur.

In the afternoon session, Bain focused on this question: “Can a change in the syllabus stimulate deeper and more enthusiastic student learning?” In his research, Bain discovered that highly successful teachers “usually produce a certain kind of syllabus.” He broke us up into small groups and asked us to think about the syllabus for one of our courses and to invent one “that makes promises rather than demands.” After a brainstorming session with a partner, he asked the audience to share ideas. One person suggested developing a course around Hurricane Katrina. In her brief presentation, she included a story and questions that could be used in a syllabus to stimulate interest in the course. The session also focused on what students will do to achieve the promise and how students will assess their own learning.

During the session, Dr. Bain exhibited many of the characteristics of what makes a teacher great. His enthusiasm, knowledge of the subject, and sense of humor kept me engaged throughout the session.

Public Speaking & Presentations, Pt. III & IV

Tuesday, March 16, 2010 1:44 pm

In the 3rd week of our public speaking class, Mary Beth and I were given the assignment of presenting a 5-minute informational or instructional speech.
Each of the class participants was encouraged to use note cards and a timer.
The speeches were recorded with a Flip video camera and e-mailed to each of us along with comments from our classmates who critiqued our presentations. Before the class we were given guidelines for offering constructive feedback to help us focus on the most important areas of public speaking. Those areas were identified as:

Content (the message)
Structure (organization)
Nonverbals (gestures, posture, facial expressions, pace & tone of voice)
Overall effectiveness (accomplishment of goal)

In the next class we did an exercise that was supposed to help with encouraging spontaneity. Dr. Oseroff-Varnell asked class members to name groups where we might be called upon to give a speech. Suggestions included church congregations, preschool children, coworkers and high school students. Each of us, in turn, was given a slip of paper listing an item (wheelbarrow, vacation condo, etc.). We were given one minute to prepare a 1-minute persuasive speech to a group we had suggested earlier. Some very impressive improvisation came out of that session. My assignment was to convince my coworkers that they needed a box of crayons. (Not sure you were convinced)

Steve at 2010 LAUNC-CH Conference

Friday, March 12, 2010 6:09 pm

Ellen has already written an admirably thorough posting on the LAUNC-CH Conference we attended on Monday, but now that my week has finally settled down to merely busy instead of insanely packed as it draws to a close, I can add a few comments.

I’ll begin by talking about the most interesting session I attended, which was called “Models for Library Data Services.” Barrie Hayes, Michelle Hayslett and Erin O’Meara, all librarians at UNC-CH, discussed UNC’s Data Management Working Group, and their work in providing data-related services to the university. Now, your first question may be what are data services? It has to do with managing large sets of research data and making it available. Why is this important? There are quite a few reasons:

  • Research may be duplicated if original data is lost.
  • Computing capabilities are increasing the speed with which data is produced and the size of data files kept.
  • More researchers are collaborating across institutional, state and national lines which means they have to share data.
  • The NIH requires grant-recipients to provide a data management plan.
  • Many journals are requiring the submission of data when articles are submitted for publication.
  • Publishers are starting to realize that data is a valuable commodity.

Because of these factors, libraries are establishing data archives, providing analysis support and methodology consulting, and educating faculty and students in how to manage and access these data sets. Many libraries are using institutional repositories (such as our own WakeSpace) to manage these data sets, but there are number of difficult issues involved with this, relating to the security of the data, the problems of storing huge quantities of data, and the network space needed for managing and manipulating enormous data sets.

In the morning, I attended a two-part session that discussed the re-design of two library portal websites, the African American Documentary Resources Portal at UNC-CH and Historical State at NCSU. Both sites were more than ten years old and in desperate need of serious re-working. Several general rules emerged from the two presentations.

  • Educate users (faculty, students, staff) about the portal.
  • Promote the new version of a portal.
  • Provide means for feedback and promotion using Web 2.0 tools (blogs, Facebook, etc.).
  • Make sure the site is interactive and allows for movement back and forth between different applications, rather than dumping the user out of the portal site and into another app.
  • Trying to harvest data from catalog records to use for other purposes can be difficult because of the amount of massaging the data requires.

One particularly thorny problem faced at UNC, was that the Patron Services librarians wanted to harvest user data so they could push information to researchers based on their previous uses of the site, but they found that their privacy policies did not allow this. The librarians have proposed changing the registration form used to grant usage of the Southern Historical Collection, to include questions about use of the Portal and to request permission to send the user tailored information about the Portal.

The conference ended with a panel discussion with library users from the UNC-CH community, including a professor, two grad students, and two undergrads, about their use of the library. The session was often quite amusing and clearly demonstrated the vital need for libraries to constantly educate and inform their users about the services they offer (because, frankly, some of the gaps in the panelists’ knowledge were appalling). We have to tell ‘em what we’ve got and how to use it. And then we’ve got to tell ‘em again.

The Art of Feedback

Wednesday, March 10, 2010 5:56 pm

Those of you who know me and love me might ask “Whatever could Susan hope to gain from a feedback workshop”? Well, actually, all of you know that I don’t particularly shy away from giving feedback, but that sometimes I might not be particularly artful in how I do it. I also, like many others, have mixed feelings about how to receive feedback, both good and bad. So my goal was to find some nuggets of gold that would help me become better at both giving and receiving feedback to/from peers, direct reports, superiors (and on the domestic front!).

This PDC-sponsored workshop was held for the first time and the subject must be one that resonates with many as there were over 20 participants from many areas of the University. I was joined by ZSR colleagues Steve Kelley, Mary Beth Lock and Heather Gillette.

During the 3.5 hour session, we learned to:

  • recognize the role of feedback in improving performance
  • construct feedback messages that meet certain criteria
  • practice the skillful delivery of feedback
  • practice receiving feedback with grace

It actually was one of the more engaging workshops of this type I’ve attended in years. All of the participants were very open about sharing their fears and hesitations when confronted with giving or receiving feedback. We all knew that it is an important communication tool to enhance performance but it is usually anxiety creating and can damage relationships when not done correctly. You don’t need to be a manager to benefit from improving your feedback techniques – they are useful when communicating with colleagues, friends, and family!

Some of the tips for constructing feedback messages were divided into specific areas:


  • Recognize that it is your job to provide feedback, positive and negative
  • Assume the other’s positive intention
  • Consider your motives before you speak
  • Consider the effect of your “filters”


  • Strive for right: right moment (usually soon), right place, right style
  • Be sure you have your facts straight: verify your accuracy


  • Focus on specific behavior, not on character or motive
  • Use “I” rather than “you” statement to cut down on defensiveness
  • Focus on key issues – top 1 or 2, not many
  • Include how you feel about it
  • Don’t give away your power by talking too much


  • Get a response
  • Give time to absorb/react (sometimes this means tomorrow)
  • Verify that what they heard = what you meant

Future Focus

  • Agree on action steps
  • End on an encouraging note
  • Follow up

Although all situations are different, the facilitator, Linda Smith, provided a basic formula to help us thoughtfully construct feedback messages:

  1. WHAT: Identify a specific behavior
  2. SO WHAT: Name the tangible effect or outcome and/or describe your feelings
  3. (Pause for reaction)
  4. NOW WHAT: Action steps/future focus

Then we practiced with each other. Yes, we did scenarios and role playing, but people appeared to really get invested in the process and many good conversations came as we worked with our groups. And that was actually one of my main take-aways from the session: Constructing a good feedback technique is actually a way to create space for conversations that then become ongoing and a natural part of interacting in a positive way.

Watch out ZSR and RITS, I’m going to start practicing tomorrow :-)

LAUNC-CH March 2010

Wednesday, March 10, 2010 2:03 pm


The theme of this spring’s LAUNC-CH conference, which Steve and I attended on Monday, was “Creating a User-Centered Library.” As ever, it offered an impressively wide range of pragmatic presentations, this time revolving around the issue of user-centricity.

The keynote presenters, Mike Olsen, Dawn Hubbs, and Barbara Tierney, all of UNC -Charlotte, led off with macro- and micro-perspectives on the issue, “What Do You Do?” User-Centered Ethnography at UNC-C’s Atkins Library.” Olsen, Associate University Librarian for Information Commons, recounted how the library hired a professional anthropologist to do usability testing, querying a group of eight students on how they worked and how they could perhaps do so “better and smarter.” The impetus for this stemmed from the absence of a University Librarian for many years, as well as a head of information commons, so the sentiment was that they needed to re-address their purpose. The result was a re-designed library, both physically and virtually, with an interesting array of approaches, some novel, some more familiar. Easels now permit students to write about what they like and don’t like: for instance, students want more of a streamlined Google look to the library’s web site and the library has emulated a library Smartphone app, similar to Duke’s mobile site. Barbara Tierney, Head of Information Services, listed their university-centered services. A Public Services Committee meets monthly with representatives from every public service area. They instituted a user-centered forum to address the question of how students (4 on the panel) do their work; from this it emerged that students are in their own personal networks, unlikely to consult either faculty or staff, and they prefer to use information from their peers. They are not sophisticated in the way they use the library, and are generally blissfully unaware of library resources, are satisfied with finding the easiest way to research, and Google is uncontested king. Smart phones are devoted to social networking only, untainted by research purposes. Atkins’ user-centered initiatives promote library resources and services such tactics as blanket emails, embedding resources in course pages, attempting to keep students tech savvy, showing how to use specialty software, having library staff present at orientation programs, publicizing services in all areas of the university, and having librarians involved with various university programs and centers. There are also eight “Learning Express” modules, with both long and short versions for books, articles, and other research resources, with links to these units embedded in courseware. They were able to accomplish something we have had in mind for years: an Information Desk that is the first public service desk students encounter as they enter the library. Dawn Hubbs, Head of Research Services, noted that the library doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but in relation to other structures and programs. They have responded to students’ wishes to have a sofa room/nap area (have we truly addressed that need as yet?) as well as food in the library. There was some sentiment still to see books in the library, so reference books are now located on the first floor. There’s an ongoing conflict between quiet study and group study needs. Three public service desks are situated near to each other, for Information, Research Services, and Tech support. Incidentally, they use LibStats from UW-Madison to collect reference questions.

The two breakout sessions I opted for were: “Telling our Stories: Connecting with Faculty at Guilford College” and “Encouragement as Service Philosophy: Motivating African-American College Students to Connect with Library Resources and Services.” The first presentation was offered by Nathaniel King, Information Literacy Librarian, and Leah Dunn, Library Director, both of Guilford College. This session advocated cultivating “library evangelists” in order to approach “library skeptics” about the value of library services, whose value might not always seem readily apparent. King sees stories as a means of persuasion: when one asks library users about the library, one most often gets a story, and faculty who share stories become valuable marketing resources. Just find the faculty who can tell great stories, thereby communicating infectious enthusiasm for the library– such as their positive experiences with ILL. He outlined a range of possible tactics: getting into the campus community by attending events and informal and formal meetings, campus-sponsored faculty lunches, and supporting research and writing (for instance they have a Zotero week when librarians go into the dining hall and offer quick demos and handouts to students who stop by).

The second breakout session was presented by Judd Mortimore, a Reference Librarian and Assistant Professor of Religion at Bennett College, and Amanda Wall, a UNC-G Ph.D. student in Teacher Education. Adopting encouragement as a service philosophy, Mortimore contended, serves to motivate African-American college students to connect with library resources and services at a Historically Black College, many of whose students are first generation college students with limited research experience, are internet dependent, have research anxiety, and do not eschew plagiarism-not unlike the college student universe in general. They embarked on a library instruction promotion program, and as a result went from 11 to 90 sessions between 2006/07 and 2009/2010, and patron counts of 14,661 to 25,911. They have developed approaches and services with instructional and programmatic emphasis on fostering a perception of encouragement in students. Ms. Wall presented the scholarly undergirding for this approach, discussing a seminal study on the motivation of African-American students, published in 2003 by Kevin Cokley (“What do we Know about the Motivation of African American Students? Challenging the ‘Anti-Intellectual Myth’.” Harvard Educational Review 63.4 (Winter 2003): 524-558.

The aim was to capture social and contextual factors of self-concept, and they addressed the notion that faculty encouragement will promote positive academic self-concept. Students at HBUCs have higher motivation and confidence than those attending PWCUs. Working from the premise that the perception of encouragement is a factor in motivation, the implication for libraries is that promoting perceptions of encouragement through library services will likewise foster motivation and positive academic self-concept. He listed strategies for use in both instruction and in references services.


  • Emphasize relationships, not resources, e.g. student-librarian, librarian-professor
  • Address research anxiety early and often, validating the experience of anxiety
  • Know the syllabus and assignments, and engage research tasks as one who is responsible, i.e. model the experience of doing research
  • Emphasize strategies for identifying keywords and revising search strategies, and knowing when to move on
  • Model good responses to search failure and don’t “bulletproof” presentations (show how to respond to failed searches)


  • Communicate enthusiasm, even jealousy for the research task
  • Indicate commitment to supporting the student; elicit how the student feels about the task, show interest, commitment, and confidence
  • Acknowledge confusion, anxiety, and disinterest, and respond
  • Clarify the topic and weigh potential foci
  • Identify ambiguity in assignment and encourage to seek clarification
  • Question the student’s choices
  • Model research processes and practices
  • Focus on what the student should do after the interview
  • Resist the temptation to produce the source
  • Follow up, e.g. find something afterwards to re-engage the relationship, establishing oneself as a partner in help

He cited faculty feedback which was positive, even flowery: post-instruction students exhibited more confidence, produced better and more refined topics, used the internet more appropriately, and exhibited less evidence of plagiarism. Students felt more confident with research, finding books, citation styles, and using the internet.

The wrap-up session was led by Jean Ferguson, Head of Research and Reference Services at Duke University, and consisted of querying a panel of students and one professor of Art History at UNC-CH, Dr. John Bowles. A sampling of questions and answers:

Define a library

(Prof) home base, but also books from other libraries on campus, and what can be accessed through the computer

Books and information and journals, but used online resources 10 times more; place to escape and have quiet time; the PGs, a set of shelves on the far end of Davis, also the BF section, where one can wander up and down the aisles and find great books one didn’t find in the online catalog; off campus access makes one more aware of subscription services

If you had BI classes, what was useful?

Too much information, a 3 page handout, but good experience in libraries with help on the spot; library information on course page, germane to specific assignment; asked librarian why couldn’t use Google scholar instead of journal databases; need university-specific technology information and handouts; (prof) faculty loves the library, which is extremely helpful, will do anything to get the student into the library

Where do you like to study?

Library or public places, with the best coffee shop; likes a little bit of noise; home alone, since the library has too many people and one gets too many books if one stays too long

Do you use social media in research?

Doesn’t like chat, since it’s like talking to a customer service agent, prefers personal interaction; likes text a citation for books

Information sources they like

Google and Wikipedia; (Prof) art librarians put together a resource page with most useful sources relevant to the class, uses Google and Wikipedia but knows that other faculty feel they are the downfall of research

What things have prepared you to be a better researcher?

Reference class on citation management; (prof) working in a library as an undergrad and grad student; working in a library so knows how call numbers work, can go right to the book instead of spending 15 minutes looking over the shelves

I felt that the conference’s pragmatic orientation provided much of interest and potential use, but Steve and I both agreed that we have many things in place already at ZSR and are ahead of the curve in much that was presented and discussed!

Society of North Carolina Archivists 2010 in Pinehurst

Wednesday, March 10, 2010 2:01 pm

I spent an extra day in Pinehurst last week to attend some of the sessions at the Society of North Carolina Archivists‘ annual meeting. I got to hear some great sessions by North Carolina archivists about archival processing, finding aids, and digital projects.

Two sessions focused on photograph collections. The first, “Minimal Processing North Carolina Style,” discussed how the principles of “More Product, Less Process” (or MPLP, based on an article by Dennis Meissner and Mark Greene) could be used to more effectively process large photographic collections for finding aids and digital projects. Patrick Cullom from UNC-Chapel Hill recommended rehousing, minimal labeling, and storage as the most important aspects of minimal processing. In description, he suggested using historical clues such as clothing to help identified “unknown” materials.

The other session about photograph collections was an overview of “Seeds of Change,” the Greenville Daily Reflector‘s photographic archives. Nearly 8,000 images were selected from 85,000 images using locally-significant themes. All 85,000 images were photographed using a light box and selection was done through a digital interface. They used Jhove to harvest preservation metadata. The resulting project, “Seeds of Change,” is a successful digital project that is a community asset, much like our Digital Forsyth. They were able to make their user comments searchable, which has been a great asset for people looking for relatives or specific comments!

Perhaps the most exciting session was the last of the day, entitled “What is this Document?” led by ECU’s Gretchen Gueguen and Mark Custer, NCSU’s Joyce Chapman, and Duke’s Noah Huffman. The discussion focused on ways to improve finding aids for access and usability. Mark Custer got the inspiration for the title of the presentation from the Forest History Society’s finding aids, which have a simple link at the top that reads, “What is this document?” that explained what a finding aid is. Studies have shown that users don’t understand what a finding aid is and are even more confused by archival jargon. Mark also reminded us of the need for a statewide digital archival repository, like the Online Archive of California.

Joyce Chapman gave a paper that she will be publishing in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Archival Organization, which details her study of finding aids and usability. Joyce argued that in the digital realm, archivists are removed from their role as “guides” in the research process, making it difficult for archivists to assist users trying to find material. She suggested that users expect three links on every page of a finding aid: “Help,” “Home,” and “Contact.” She also described the need for dynamic navigation of our text-heavy finding aids, including linked subject headings and tabbed or drop-down navigation. Her studies showed that users would like to know how to view materials in person, as well as definitions for jargon through hover captions or links. Most importantly, she urged the inclusion of a SEARCH BOX, or at minimum instructions for how to search the page using CTRL +F. Her examples and XSL code are accessible online through the SAA EAD help pages.

In the Q&A segment of the session, I came out with two great ideas: make sure that search results are highlighted in finding aid navigation, and consider putting finding aids and digital objects into the same database so that these digital resources are unified in the finding aid. I have a lot of inspiration for how we can make our finding aids more interactive and useful!

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